Hot Shooting Carries Miami to Decisive Win in NIT Opener
|Box Score | Miami Postgame Press Conference | FAU Postgame Press Conference
By Rob Dunning
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – FAU did all it could to hang around with Miami but in the end, the Hurricanes were just too much for the Owls to handle.
The second-seeded ‘Canes pulled away from seventh-seeded FAU for a 85-62 win in the opening round of the 2011 National Invitational Tournament Wednesday night at the BankUnited Center.
The win advances second-seeded Miami (20-14) into the NIT’s second round where it will host to third-seeded Missouri State (26-8) on Monday, March 21, at 7 p.m. in an ESPN-televised game.
Outside a few quick spurts by the Owls, Miami had complete control of this one throughout, thanks to a season-best shooting performance and a dominant performance in the paint by center Reggie Johnson, who pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds – the most for a ‘Cane since the return of Miami basketball in 1985-86.
The ‘Canes connected on 60-percent of its attempts against the Owls, topping their previous best mark this season of 54.9-percent set against Maryland on March 2.
All-ACC third-teamer Malcolm Grant led all scorers with 23 points while Johnson recorded his 13th double-double of the season with 14 points to go with his 20 boards.
Grant’s 20-plus point outing was his eighth this season.
Durand Scott, who hit on 4-of-6 from the field and a perfect 10-of-10 from the line, finished the night with 19 points, four assists and a couple rebounds to join Grant and Johnson in leading the ‘Canes.
Greg Gantt led FAU with 17 points.
FAU opened things up by jumping out to a 6-2 lead but Miami responded with a 15-3 run to go up eight midway through the first half. FAU made a few small runs the rest of the period but the ‘Canes were able to maintain their comfortable lead to take a 39-28 advantage into the half.
The Owls cut into Miami’s lead in the second half, pulling to within six with 11:34 to play, but that would be as close as they would get. Feeling their lead starting to slip away, the ‘Canes rallied for a 15-1 run to go up 66-46 with 4:23 to play.
From there, they never looked back.
The 23-point win was Miami’s largest margin of victory since beating Pepperdine, 94-59, on Dec. 30, 2010. It marked also marked the ‘Canes fifth 20-plus point win of the season.
Miami out-rebounded FAU, 36-to-28, and held a 42-to-28 edge in points in the paint, thanks mostly to Johnson’s big night inside.
The victory secured Miami’s third 20-win season in the last four seasons under head coach Frank Haith. It also means the ‘Canes are one more game closer to Madison Square Garden, home of the NIT Finals.
One down, two more to go to get to New York City.
Next up, Missouri State.
With the win tonight…
Grant — who entered the tournament leading the ACC in three-point field goal percentage, three-pointers per game and free throw percentage — has hit a three in 31 of 34 games this season, with three-plus threes 19 times — including in 14 of the last 20 games.
Adrian Thomas hit the first three-pointer of the game to extend his three-point streak to 19-straight games for the second-longest active streak in the ACC behind Grant and the seventh-longest streak in UM history. His 89 three-pointers this season are fifth-most in a single season by a Hurricane, while his 200 career threes rank fifth. Thomas has hit three-plus threes 17 times this season and 34 times over his six-year career.
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